Introduction to the Mae Hong Son Loop
Hello fellow adventure-seekers! Thinking about riding the Mae Hong Son Loop? Well, make yourself comfortable because you’re in for a treat. This loop is one of northern Thailand’s most thrilling multi-day excursions – an absolute must-do on any Thailand itinerary!
The Mae Hong Son Loop is a one-of-a-kind journey that starts and ends in the cultural hub of Chiang Mai.
Now, imagine this: you zip through 450 miles (approximately 720 kilometers) of picture-perfect mountain and river scenery, 1864 perfect curves – any motorcycle enthusiasts dream, explore quaint towns, and indulge in mouthwatering Thai cuisine. Sounds like a thrilling adventure, doesn’t it?
So let’s explore an exhilarating road trip through the Mae Hong Son Loop – one of Thailand’s best-kept secrets!
Why Explore Mae Hong Son Loop by Motorbike?
“You haven’t truly lived until you’ve conquered the Mae Hong Son Loop on a motorbike.” Take a moment, let that sink in. The Mae Hong Son Loop, a 450-mile course of pure motorbiking thrill that winds through some of the most enchanting locations in Northern Thailand, is quite possibly one of the best experiences you can have on two wheels.
The beauty and allure of this trek reside in its diversity. Beginning and ending in the bustling city of Chiang Mai, the loop carries you through the serene towns of Mae Sariang, Mae Hong Son, and Pai – each filled with its distinctive charm and allure. Imagine revving through 1864 curves, each presenting a new vista of heart-stopping mountain views, unique local cultures, and key attractions of Northern Thailand.
There are several ways to travel the Mae Hong Son Loop including: renting a car, tour bus, minivan, or large motorcycle. I think the best way to explore the loop is by motorbike (150-300 cc). More details on the right motorbike in the sections below.
Now, you may wonder why a motorbike specifically? Well, the sense of freedom and adventure it lends to your journey is second to none. Here are the top reasons why you absolutely MUST consider a motorbike for this exploration:
- Unparalleled Freedom: On a motorbike, you’re the master of your journey. Stop wherever you want, whenever you want, be it for a quick photo or to blend in with the locals.
- Adrenaline Pumping Adventure: Conquering the Loop’s famed 1864 curves on a motorbike injects a rush of adrenaline that you just won’t get in a car or on a tour bus.
- Experience Local Cultures: Travelling on a motorbike offers an immersive experience into local cultures, from the ethnic minority villages to bustling local markets.
- Closer to Nature: Unlike traveling in enclosed vehicles, motorbiking allows you to feel the breeze, smell the rainy earth or sun-kissed foliage, and revel in the beauty of the natural landscape.
- Budget-Friendly: The cost of a motorbike rental is quite reasonable. Plus, it’s more fuel-efficient, making it a pocket-friendly option for budget travelers.
Even if motorbiking isn’t in your usual repertoire, consider stepping outside of your comfort zone for this one. The experience of navigating these breathtaking landscapes on two wheels is worth the butterflies in your stomach!
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Preparing for Your Motorbike Journey
Before you decide anything else, first, you should choose the length of your tip. The loop can be done in as little as 4 nights, but a more recommended itinerary calls for 10 nights.
Choose anything between 4 to 10 days, depending on how much time you can allocate for this experience. My perfect itinerary would look like this:
- 1 night in Chiang Mai – to rent a motorbike and prepare for the trip.
- 1 night in Chom Thong – to explore Doi Inthanon National Park and surrounding areas.
- 1 night in Mae Sariang – to explore Salawin National Park and surrounding areas.
- 2 nights in Mae Hong Son – there is a lot to see here, and you will want some rest.
- 3 nights in Pai – one of the highlights of the trip – there is a lot to see here.
- 2 nights in Chiang Mai – It’s my favorite place in Thailand – take some time to explore it.
Be sure to bookmark this page and use it as a reference later. And save the Google My Maps below on your phone, it’s full of useful navigation and activity information.
Step 1: Choose your route
Embarking on the Mae Hong Son Loop motorbike journey in Thailand can be an exhilarating experience, but having your route well planned is crucial to ensure safety and optimal enjoyment.
By selecting the ideal route, you’re setting yourself up for an unforgettable adventure, leaving room to soak in the picturesque landscapes, whiz by rice fields and strawberry plantations, and experience the thrill without compromising on safety.
1. Decide the Direction
While the direction you choose to ride the loop depends on personal preference, we recommend taking the clockwise route: Chiang Mai, Mae Sariang, Mae Hong Son, and Pai.
I did the route both ways, and I found it most enjoyable clockwise.
2. Map Your Route Beforehand
With your starting point in Chiang Mai, embark early to avoid heavy traffic. The initial 40 kilometers aren’t too exciting but are integral for getting used to the road.
I created a Google My Maps track that you can save and keep handy with directions, accommodations, and places to see.
3. Plan Your Stops
Itinerary planning is equal parts fun and challenging. While en route, make time for impromptu stops to enjoy a coffee by a lake or to take in views of the countryside. But remember, don’t get too carried away and overdo the plan!
4. Prepare for the Unexpected
In the face of the unexpected, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Just as we’ve had to rely on travel insurance during our 8 years of travel, I’d strongly advise you to consider one as well.
And be open to changing your plans. The idea is to enjoy the journey more than the destination – so whether you’re zipping by the rice fields or breathing in the mountain air, remember to soak in every moment of your Mae Hong Son Loop journey.
Step 2: Book accommodations
Booking your stay is the next step in your Mae Hong Son Loop motorbike journey’s preparations.
We recommend having a plan but not booking it all the way through. There are plenty of accommodations along the route, so you can book them just 1 day in advance.
On day 1 of your trip, book your accommodations in Chom Thong before you leave Chiang Mai. On day 2, book your accommodations for Mae Sariang before you leave Chom Thong.
If at any point you feel like you need more time to rest and explore, you can extend your trip without having to cancel all your other accommodations.
Booking your accommodations in this manner will ensure you have a place to sleep for the night but also keep all your options open.
Here are some amazing accommodations on the Mae Hong Son Loop that we highly recommend:
Step 3: Rent the correct motorbike
Choosing the right motorbike for your journey on the Mae Hong Son Loop can make all the difference between an exhilarating ride and a painstakingly slow crawl. Selecting a motorbike that suits your comfort level and experience, coupled with the unique terrains of the loop, is a crucial part of your preparation.
First, you’ll need to decide on the type of motorbike. It could be an automatic, semi-automatic, or a full manual. Given the steep grades and tight turns of the Mae Hong Son Loop, an automatic motorbike comes highly recommended. These bikes ensure you can cruise smoothly without getting stuck or overly concerned about the mechanisms of gear shifting.
Secondly, consider the engine size. We suggest opting for a 150-300cc scooter. While the price increases with the size of the engine, the added thrill makes the extra cost worthwhile for experienced riders. However, do bear in mind the size may also be dependent on your own comfort and familiarity with larger engines.
Many people think that you need a big motorcycle to enjoy this route, but I can assure you, you will have more fun on a 300 cc scooter than on a 1000 cc sports bike. Very experienced riders chose adventure bikes like the BMW 1250 GS for comfort and luggage capacity, but they can be quite pricy and difficult to find.
For beginners, choose a 150cc motorbike like the Honda PCX, Honda ADV 160, or Yamaha N-Max. Avoid other 150cc motorbikes like Honda Click and Yamaha Arox because they have smaller fuel tanks and are less comfortable. Smaller, 125cc motorbikes should be completely avoided, they will struggle to go uphill, and you will push them up.
For experienced Rides, choose a 300cc motorbike like the Honda ADV 350, Honda Forza 350, or Yamaha X-Max 300. They have large under-seat storage, more power to go uphill, larger fuel tanks, and comfortable seats.
For motorcycle enthusiasts, BMW Gs 850 and 1250 can be found for rent in Chiang Mai, alongside other large adventure bikes, but try to book in advance. They are hard to come by and expensive.
Price is another key determinant and motorcycles in Chiang Mai can be rented within a range of ฿500 ($14.5) per day for 150cc, up to ฿1200 ($35) per day for 300cc motorbikes. Take your time to explore rental options to find the perfect deal. Mango Bikes and Cat Motors are good places to start, given their wide array of choices and competitive pricing.
While selecting your bike, keep an eye on the condition. Do not rent a beat-up motorbike with a lot of miles on it for a 10-day trip. Check the brakes, tires, levers, and bars and ensure that they’re in full working condition. Don’t hesitate to take photos and a video of the bike on the day you rent it, as Thai people take motorcycle damage quite seriously. You do not want to pay for damages caused by someone else.
While the bike rental shops won’t require a license, they will ask for your passport. I highly advise you to leave a photocopy rather than your actual passport itself. However, be prepared to give a cash deposit instead (3000 THB or more) – it’s well worth it. If you leave your actual passport as a deposit, some bike shops might keep your passport “hostage” when you return the bike and ask you to pay for damages.
If the rental place does not provide helmets, be sure to purchase one from a local shop. Big C Chiang Mai has a large section and very good prices. They cost about 600 THB ($17), but they are required by law and will save your life in case of an accident.
While you ride through Thailand, you might be stopped by the police to check you have the proper driver’s license. Ensure you get an international driver’s license from your home country before you leave.
Remember, the process is as much about enjoying your journey as it is about ensuring your safety and comfort. Don’t rush your decision – take your time to find the motorbike that makes your Mae Hong Son Loop adventure one for the ages. Be smart, be safe, and let the ride of your life begin!
Step 4: Prepare for the weather conditions
Before you hit the road, getting familiar with the weather conditions on the Mae Hong Son Loop is crucial.
Here’s how to navigate the climates and stay comfortable regardless of what Mother Nature throws your way:
- Know the Seasons: Thailand’s weather is divided into three main seasons: dry, hot, and wet. November through February are generally cool and dry, providing the most ideal riding conditions. The hot season swiftly follows from March to May, with temperatures soaring up to 100 degrees F. The monsoon season typically occurs from June to October, with heavy rainfall anticipated every day. Don’t discount the wet season, You might get a little wet, but the lack of crowds, lower prices, and lush, green vegetation make us for the rain.
- Dress Smart: Depending on when you set out on your adventure, your wardrobe is going to differ. For the winter months (Nov-Feb), include light jackets, sweaters, and trousers, as the temperatures can fall dramatically at night and early morning on the mountain roads. If you’re braving the rains, remember to carry waterproofs to protect yourself from torrential downpours.
- Protect Yourself: Thailand’s fierce sun shows no mercy. Regardless of the season, always have sunscreen handy to protect your skin. Similarly, mosquito repellent is a must-have item to ward off any unwelcome critters.
- Prepare for the Unexpected: On some days, heat and humidity can be overpowering, and heatstroke is a real risk. Make sure to carry cold water and avoid riding in the peak afternoon heat. For those prone to car sickness, popping a few motion sickness tablets can help, especially considering the loop’s frequent bends and ascents.
- Always Wear a Helmet: Regardless of the season, your safety helmet is non-negotiable. If an accident occurs, it could mean the difference between a minor injury and a life-threatening one.
Remember, being ill-prepared can turn your exciting adventure into a challenging ordeal. Equip yourself properly, consider the weather, and you’ll be on your way to an unforgettable motorbike journey on the Mae Hong Son Loop.
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Step 5: Have a first aid kit handy
Traveling the Mae Hong Son Loop by motorbike is no doubt a thrilling experience. With that, it’s crucial to have a small first aid kit ready – because you never know when accidents happen. Even if you are extremely careful and an experienced rider, you might still need a bandaid and some disinfectant when you hike and explore the North of Thailand. Here are some go-to items I take with me:
- Bandages and Gauzes: You’ll need these to cover any scrapes or wounds that could arise from a minor accident. The same goes for adhesive tape to secure the gauze.
- Disinfectants: Bottles or sachets of alcohol or iodine can help cleanse an injury to prevent infection.
- Painkillers and Anti-Inflammatory Drugs: A supply of ibuprofen or Tylenol can take care of headaches, minor pains or reduce inflammation.
- Motion Sickness Tablets: The road on this loop is winding and can cause nausea. Travel prepared with some motion sickness preventives.
- Sunscreen and Mosquito Repellent: The sun can be intense, and the mosquitoes are relentless in this region, so these items are a must.
- Rehydration Salts: These are vital to recovering lost electrolytes after a fulfilling but tiring day on the loop. Some Gatorade from the local 7-Eleven will also do the trick.
- Any Personal Medication: If you need specific medication on a daily basis, don’t forget to pack this! If you take any prescription medication, keep a copy of your prescription handy on your phone in case the Thai police ask for it.
Forewarned is forearmed, right? The idea isn’t to scare you off from this grand adventure but to have you prepared enough to enjoy every little detail without worries. Remember, better safe than sorry!
Step 6: Follow road rules carefully
Riding the Mae Hong Son Loop is no joke, but don’t worry too much if your International Driver’s License lacks the motorbike stamp.
Just remember to:
- Always wear your helmet. Really, this rule is a no-brainer.
- Use your turn signals, they’re there for a reason.
- Don’t look guilty when you’re riding around; it’s not a good look.
- Avoid riding at night. It might seem like a great idea until it’s not.
- Keep in mind your limitations. Don’t push yourself to ride farther or faster than you feel comfortable.
Be prepared for a few challenges, as some parts of the road can be tricky for beginners. Also, always be ready for unpredictable driving behaviors from other drivers.
Drunk driving, sadly, is not uncommon in Thailand, so stay alert and don’t hesitate to give way to erratic drivers because it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Now, if you’re not exactly a pro when it comes to riding a bike, practice in Chiang Mai after you rent the bike.
Also, look up “Counter Steering” on Google or YouTube, this is how motorcycles turn, and you will do a lot of it on this trip, there are over 1800 bends. Practice counter-steering at safe speeds before you hit the twisties on the loop.
Detailed Itinerary for the Mae Hong Son Loop
Get ready for an epic adventure on the Mae Hong Son Loop, arguably one of northern Thailand’s most stunning road trips!
Covering roughly 400 miles of stunning mountain vistas, traditional hill tribe villages, and heart-pumping corners, this trip is a definite bucket-list experience. Here’s a detailed itinerary to help plan your road trip.
Part 1: Chiang Mai to Chom Thong (via Doi Inthanon National Park)
Embarking on your journey from Chiang Mai to Chom Thong is quite the adventure, this is the first part of your Mae Hong Son Loop. The distance is not very long, it only takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes from Chiang Mai.
This is because, on the way, we will stop at Doi Inthanon National Park and explore the Highest Peak in Thailand, the amazing Pagodas on the mountain, and the Amazing View Points.
So day 1 of the Loop will be Chiang Mai ->Doi Inthanon National Park -> Chom Thong.
Here are some of the Amazing things to see on the way.
Want a taste of nature’s grandeur? Let me introduce you to the mesmerizing Wachirathan Waterfall, one of the gems of the Mae Hong Son Loop. Aptly named ‘Diamond Creek’, it’s up here in the rolling foothills of Doi Inthanon mountain in Northern Thailand, where the waterfall calls home.
Boasting an awesome stature with a cumulative height of roughly 250 feet, it’s the majestic sight of water cascading over granite that transforms this spot into a magical place. Just imagine millions of falling water drops painting a picture of sparkly diamonds dancing in the air. Yes, folks, it’s that spectacular!
But the Wachirathan Waterfall has more than just its fantastic appearance going. It becomes a more immersive experience populated by a powerful mist spray born from the waterfall’s forceful stream hitting the ground, creating rainbows by reflecting the sunlight. It’s these dreamlike rainbows that perfectly encapsulate the breathtaking allure of the Wachirathan Waterfall.
I recommend stopping at the waterfall on the way to the Doi Inthanon Peak, it’s just off the road and easily accessible with ample parking.
Doi Inthanon National Park
Tucked high up in the northern part of Thailand is the alluring Doi Inthanon National Park. Home to the highest peak of the country, it is a misty paradise full of cool, aromatic forests, stunning teeming trails, and the irresistible charm of local hospitality. A few top features that make the park an unforgettable experience include:
- Its majestic peak, Doi Inthanon, towering at a mighty 8415 feet.
- The well-laid hiking trails, most notably the Kew Mae Pan trail, a hot tourist spot.
- The Royal Pagodas and Botanical Gardens, offering a cultural insight.
- Beautiful local hill tribe market stands selling fresh produce.
All this packed into one national park ensures your visit is chalked full of memorable adventures and scenic beauty, not to mention the chance to soak in the Thai culture up close. The magic of this place will stay with you long after the journey is over.
The Grand Pagodas on the journey from Chiang Mai to Chom Thong in the Mae Hong Son Loop are a sight to behold.
They aren’t just religious symbols but are showcases of amazing craftsmanship and Thai spirituality loaded with stories and vibrant culture.
You will have to park your bike on the main road and hike up to the pagodas, followed by quite a few steps to get up. Quite the exercises, but well worth it.
Remember, the grandeur is not just in their ornate beauty, but the remarkable experiences they offer.
So, put your walking shoes on and get set, because this isn’t just about pagodas but the journey along the way. Every stone has an untold story, and every view has a unique tale to tell, making this path a walk to remember.
Mae Ya Waterfall
Get ready to unleash the adventurer within you as you embrace the stunning Mae Ya Waterfall on the way back from Doi Inthanon to Chom Thong.
Nestled between Mae Sariang and Chiang Mai, this waterfall boasts a majestic height of about 860 feet, making it one of the most impressive in Thailand. Its extensive cascade into numerous pools provides a soothing ambiance, where you can cool off and immerse yourself in nature’s charm.
Here’s a spotlight on a curated list of must-see and must-do activities around the Mae Ya Waterfall:
- Enjoy a mid-journey break: Take advantage of the peaceful environment to unwind after a long drive or before your climb uphill.
- Dive into the pools: Seize the opportunity to take a refreshing dip in one of the many naturally-formed pools. It’s a great way to beat the tropical heat.
- Picnic alongside the waterfall: Pack a picnic to enjoy alongside the soothing sounds of the waterfall – it’s a memory you’ll cherish.
Wat Chom Thong Temple
Here’s a treat for all you globe-trotters out there – add Wat Phra That Si Chom Thong to the must-visit list of your Mae Hong Son Loop Itinerary!
Now, I must tell you, it’s not just a temple, but an age-old landmark, gifting everyone breathtaking views of the valley below. As history goes, it was assumed that Wat Chom Thong was built around the thirteenth century to house the relics from the right part of the head of Buddha.
The temple holds great historical and religious significance and is often used for meditation courses. The mediation classes are free and available in Thai and English. More details here.
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Part 2: Chom Thong to Mae Sariang
You can cover the distance of the next leg of the trip from Chom Thong to Mae Sarianf in about two and a half hours. This distance is short by design again because the road has many curves, but also many things to see along the way.
Here are some stops we recommend for this leg of the trip.
Op Luang National Park
Op Luang National Park, an alluring natural canvas adorned with lush landscapes and abundant wildlife, makes for an enchanting pit stop on the journey from Chom Thong to Mae Sariang.
Tucked away on the outskirts of the quaint town of Hot, Op Luang National Park is a place where you can experience pure tranquility away from the cacophony of city life.
Exciting trails, stunning scenic points, and a serene river gently coursing through the heart of the park – it’s got everything that speaks out to a true nature enthusiast.
Here are a few top-notch attractions of Op Luang National Park that make it an absolute must-visit:
- The picturesque Mae Chaem River – a perfect place to sit, relax, and appreciate nature’s beauty.
- Crisscrossing hiking trails that invite you to explore the untouched terrains.
- Beautiful, star-lit sky at night – a spectacle that’ll leave you spellbound.
- It’s wonderful campgrounds, ideal for an overnight stay if you prefer to comp instead of a hotel in Mae Sariang.
Make it a point to spend some quiet time by the Mae Chaem River. Just take a seat on the riverside or the hanging bridge and let the rhythmic sound of flowing water work its magic. If you’re lucky, you might just spot some aquatic wildlife!
Remember, Op Luang is more than just a stop on your journey; it’s an experience worth immersing in. So, take your time exploring, resting, and rejuvenating before you continue your delightful journey toward Mae Sariang.
Wat Mae Long Temple
No visit to the Op Luan National Park is complete without a visit to the Mae Long Temple. Nestled in the heart of Northern Thailand, this sacred site brims with spiritual significance, mystical charm, and a breathtaking aerial view of the quaint hamlets below.
Legend has it that Buddha himself graced this hill once, rendering this temple a precious Buddhist relic. No wonder it’s a must-visit! Let us guide you on what to expect with our first-hand insights.
Remember, as you chart your course on the Mae Hong Son Loop, this historical, spiritual gem tucked up in Northern Thailand’s hills awaits. From enriching cultural insights to sweeping panoramas, Wat Mae Long Temple indeed promises an unforgettable pitstop.
Wat Kiew Lom Temple
Step on the brakes, folks! You’ve just landed yourself in the middle of the Mae Hong Son loop journey, eagerly eyeing that next pit stop, the Wat Kiew Lom Temple.
Now that’s a real gem! Brimming with cultural significance and tucked nicely on your route, this Thai temple strikes a perfect note between reverence and adventure.
The Wat Kiew Lom Temple, folks, is not just a landmark. It’s a spiritual retreat, a chill-out zone, a convenient hub, a cultural divulgence, and above all, a warm hug on your arduous Mae Hong Son journey.
Huai Kung Viewpoint
Huai Kung Viewpoint, like a hidden gem along the Mae Hong Son Loop, is one of those dazzling spots you have got to see for yourself.
Nestled between the small town of Hot and Mae Sariang, it’s one of those perfect, break-on-the-journey kind of places you’d find on the loop that I absolutely adore for its refreshing sightseeing experience.
So take a short break, grab a refreshing Iced Coffee, and enjoy the stunning views as you rest for the final stretch to Mae Sariang.
Salawin National Park
Our journey from Chom Thong to Mae Sariang was sprinkled with adventures, and a standout experience was visiting the impressive Salawin National Park, located very close to the town of Mae Sariang.
Firstly, let me take you through some things you should know about Thailand’s National Parks, like Salawin. They are essentially swaths of land that may or may not be developed.
Unlike National Parks we’re used to in the United States, many Thai Parks have villages inside them and are actually free or cheap to enter. They aren’t commercialized and filled with several hiking trails, but this isn’t a drawback – in fact, it makes the parks more intimate and concentrated.
When we visited Salawin National Park, we were immediately greeted by a guard, which is no surprise since, oddly enough, Thai national parks are run by the military. After some hand charades and failed attempts at combining our English and Thai language skills, we succeeded in paying a mere entrance fee of 2 USD.
The park itself is an unspoiled expanse of dense jungle situated along the Myanmar border, and it houses an array of rare and exciting wildlife. Northern Thailand is a hotspot for cobras and is home to one of the last remaining tiger habitats, especially within Salawin.
Remember though, exploring the park need not mean you have to encounter wildlife up close. A safe nature trail crosses Salawin National Park, offering enriching exploration opportunities.
This pathway snakes up the hillside for around a mile, giving you enough distance to feel truly absorbed in the wilderness without straying too far.
Part 3: Mae Sariang to Mae Hong Son
While the direct route from Mae Sariang to Mae Hong Son can be done quite fast, in just about two hours, the road is very curvy, scenic and full of things to explore so expect a full day of adventures.
Here are some items to add to your list on this leg of the journey.
Mae Sariang National Park
Tucked away in the Mae Hong Son province in Northern Thailand, you’ll discover the astonishingly charming Mae Sariang National Park.
Bordered by the idyllic river Yuam and set against the backdrop of majestic mountains, this quaint town promises a travel experience that’s something out of the ordinary.
- A relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
- Exceptional natural scenery marked by the flowing Yuam River and the remote mountains.
- Rich local culture with influences of the hill tribes.
The Park is on the way to Mae Hong Song and provides an excellent pit stop to relax and unwind for a bit.
Thai-Japan Friendship Memorial Hall
The Thai-Japan Friendship Museum, or as the locals call it, the Khun Yuam Museum, is a wonderful little gem tucked away in the sleepy town of Khun Yuam.
This place packs a potent punch of World War II history as it pays ode to its past as one of Japan’s most crucial Army bases. But don’t be misled, this is not just another war museum. Curating a bunch of exhibits unrelated to the war, it was aptly named the Friendship Museum when it opened its doors in 1995.
This destination offers a unique blend of history, culture, and friendly faces, making it a must-not-miss stop on your Mae Hong Son Loop journey. The exhibits give an insightful glimpse into the happenings of the WWII era, with Japan being unexpectedly aligned with Germany.
So, step in and let the Thai-Japan Friendship Museum take you on a journey of emotions and leave you with a piece of history to cherish forever!
Mae Nam Yuang Waterfall
Nestled in the beauties of the Mae Hong Son Loop itinerary, the Mae Nam Yuang Waterfall is such an appealing sight that compels every traveler to take a pause in the journey!
Yes, we’re telling you, this waterfall is unparalleled in its charm and adds a quintessential touch of nature to the Mae Hong Son Loop.
Mae Nam Yuang Waterfall, you see, isn’t just a waterfall but a rendezvous of fresh cascades and lush greenery! Here are the main highlights:
- Numerous levels of cascades tendering a soothing sight
- Lush, tropical surroundings that exhibit Thailand’s rich ecosystems
- An enticing natural swimming pool for one seeking a refreshing dip
- Proximity to other major attractions on the Mae Hong Son Loop, making it a wonderful pitstop.
There you have it, the hidden gem known as Mae Nam Yuang Waterfall! It’s about time you cross off this stunner from your Mae Hong Son Loop itinerary.
Trust us, you’re in for a sight you’ll definitely want to engrave in your memory.
Thung Bua Tong Fields
When you’re exploring Thailand, you’ve got to check out the Thung Bua Tong Fields at Doi Mae U Kho. Trust me, it’s like stepping into a Van Gogh painting.
Here, you’ll be greeted by an endless expanse of gold – sunflowers as far as the eye can see! The best part? You’re getting a ground-breaking panoramic view over the dazzling landscape.
Oh, and make sure to set your visit in the last two weeks of November when you can witness the glorious sunflower bloom in full swing.
Here’s a quick snapshot of what you can expect:
- A blanket of golden sunflowers that will dazzle your senses
- A viewpoint providing a breathtaking view over the surrounding hilly landscape
- An unforgettable, immersive experience of walking through the sunflower fields
Now that you’ve got a taste of what awaits you at Thung Bua Tong Fields, I’m sure you can’t resist the call of the sunflowers.
Mae Surin Waterfall
During our thrilling Mae Hong Son Loop by Motorbike journey, we had the chance to visit the Mae Surin Waterfall.
It’s one of Thailand’s most picturesque waterfalls, nestled in the Namtok Mae Surin National Park. Being one of Thailand’s tallest waterfalls, the beautifully cascading clear water against rocks gives it an enchanting feel.
Now let me get you exactly on point on why you MUST visit this beauty:
- Incredible View: The Mae Surin Waterfall is an unmatched wonder that commands attention and brings in tourists from across the globe. It’s not just a waterfall but an extravaganza of multiple levels of rock and clear water cascading in full vigor.
- Tranquility: Standing on the viewing platform, you’ll be awestruck by the tranquility and sheer size of Mae Surin. The observation point might not be up close, but the panoramic view still captures the essence of this majestic natural marvel.
- Easy Access: Reaching the waterfall is not a big task. After paying an entrance fee of 200 baht per person, you get to the viewing platform that provides a breathtaking view of the waterfall.
Keep in mind while nature might present some limitations, the beauty of the adventure lies in embracing them. So visit, witness, and etch the memories of Mae Surin Waterfall in the album of your heart.
Pha Bong Viewpoint
Buckle up, fellow adventurers, as we take a quick pit stop at the picturesque Pha Bong Viewpoint!
Nestled quaintly on the road from Mae Sariang to Mae Hong Son, this spot is a can’t-miss on your Mae Hong Son Loop journey. You want rolling hills, a glistening river, savory snacks, and decadent coffee? It’s all bundled right here.
Why it’s worth a stop:
- The Pha Bong Viewpoint is heaven for nature lovers with its stunning views of northern Thailand’s river and rolling hills.
- You get to sip coffee or tea while taking in breathtaking views. Pair that with some tantalizing snacks, and you’ve got yourself an impromptu, mesmerizing picnic.
- Its midway location makes it an ideal rest stop as you journey from Mae Sariang to Mae Hong Son.
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Part 4: Mae Hong Son to Pai (via Ban Rak Thai)
We recommend at least 2 nights in Mae Hong Song before making your way to Pai, so you have a chance to explore everything this area has to offer.
This leg of the journey is one of the longer ones, especially with the detour to the small village of Ban Rak Thai. Expect to ride for 4-5 hours because there are so many detours that cannot be missed.
Here are some of the highlights.
Wat Doi Kongmu Temple
No visit to Mae Hong Son is complete without visiting its most famous temple: Doi Kongmu. Perched on top of Kong Mu Hill, it’s like the cherry on top for your Mae Hong Son Loop journey.
And trust us – it’s not just a stop but a destination full of historical significance and breathtaking view that simply leaves everyone awestruck.
Here are some of the top features of Wat Doi Kongmu Temple:
- Magnificent panoramic view of the entire valley from atop Kong Mu Hill
- Beautiful Burmese-style architecture dating back to the 1860s
- The temple grounds are a tranquil abode for monks giving it a peaceful atmosphere
- An amazing spot to watch the sunset, adding a magical touch to its beauty
- A convenient coffee shop on top to sip on a hot drink as you enjoy the view
Whether it’s the sunset, architecture, or the delightful sound of silence, there’s something for everyone here. Just remember, the journey here is as beautiful as the destination itself!
Long Neck Karen Village
Exploring around the city of Mae Hong Son, you’re sure to stumble upon a unique, intriguing experience – the possibility of visiting a Long Neck Karen Village.
This isn’t your typical tourist attraction, it’s a real community, a home to a diverse group of ethnic minorities. Among these vibrant communities are the Long Neck Karen, an extraordinary tribe known for their distinctive brass ring-neck adornments.
The tradition, given the name “giraffe women,” is a special facet of their cultural heritage. As you step foot into this village, you’re walking into an exciting voyage of cultural discovery.
Here are some highlights of the village:
- Become acquainted with the “giraffe women” tribe members, recognized by their unique custom of wearing brass rings around the neck. These visually impressive coils of brass start from a young age and offer a glimpse into their unique culture.
- Visit Huay Pu Keng, a harmonious co-living space for several different ethnic groups. The sight of such diverse groups living amicably can be a lesson in unity.
- Explore the quaint streets of the village, with every turn offering glimpses into their way of life.
- Grab the opportunity to learn and understand the history and culture of the Kayan people, an ethnic minority group from Myanmar.
Remember, the key to any meaningful journey is respect, mindfulness, and an open heart.
Su Tong Pae Bridge
Have you ever fancied taking a leisurely walk across a bridge made entirely of bamboo? That’s exactly what we did when we visited the Su Tong Pae Bridge during our Mae Hong Son Loop adventure.
Found in Northern Thailand, this off-the-beaten-track gem saved some of the best memories for us.
The bridge is quite a marvel, stretching over 1600 ft and connecting a small village to a temple across expansive rice fields.
Although Su Tong Pae Bridge was originally meant to be a route for the local monks, it has gracefully become a favorite among visitors like you and me.
Here’s what makes it magical:
- Unparalleled serenity: Unravel your senses on this idyllic walkway, where the only sounds come from chirping birds and rustling leaves.
- A piece of living history: The bridge is not just a tourist spot but a part of the daily lives of monks and locals, giving it that authentic touch.
- Picture-perfect scenes: Perched over vast green rice fields, it offers spectacular views, which are a treat for the eyes and a heaven for photographers.
- The longest bamboo bridge in Thailand: That’s right, Su Tong Pae holds the record for this! Quite an achievement, isn’t it?
Although the bridge seems inviting all through the day, it’s truly magical during the early mornings. Trust us on this, as we found ourselves alone on the bridge, letting the beauty of the dawn sink in.
However, be mindful of the monks crossing the bridge for their daily alms in the mornings. The locals respectfully clear the way for them, and it’s advisable for you to do the same.
Pha Sua Waterfall
Close your eyes and imagine a scene right out of a storybook – a waterfall that cascades over six levels, flowing all year round. And you guessed it, that’s the Pha Suea Waterfall for you!
Nestled away 20 miles from Mae Hong Son, this beauty is indeed a sight for sore eyes. Since stopping at the Chinese-Thai village of Ban Rak Thai is a must, visiting the waterfall is just a short stop along the way.
Ensure you’ve packed comfortable shoes, you’ll be trekking through some jungle paths, so it’s not the time for your fancy footwear. Also, although the trail leading to the waterfall is not treacherous, it might be a bit slippery during the rainy season.
So, take special care to watch your steps, and you’ll be just fine. Bring a snack and some drinks, and you get yourself a picnic in beautiful nature by the waterfall.
So grab your camera, pack a picnic, and put on your explorer’s hat. Take the time to visit the Pha Suea Waterfall and immerse yourself in its refreshing beauty.
Prepare yourself for an enchanting journey to Pang Oung, affectionately known as Pang Tong Under Royal Forest Park, in the serene Mae Hong Son to Ban Rak Thai itinerary.
As you land in this well-endorsed park, your senses will be instantly stimulated – the aroma of the towering trees, the tranquillity of the pristine lake, and the sight of wildlife, like ducks and, if you’re lucky, some swans, punctuating the still water.
We suggest stopping at Pang Oung on the way to Ban Rak Thai and spending some time here to enjoy nature. Immerse yourself in this peaceful environment, and don’t forget to make the most of the photo opportunities that this breathtaking symmetry offers.
The roads are narrow and curvy but well paved and breathability beautiful. Once you arrive, you can embark on a memorable boat ride on the serene lake. And if you’re out here during winter, you might just witness the park transform into a fan-favorite camping spot!
Navigate your way around the lake, basking in the picturesque setting and the calming sounds, or perhaps, pitch a tent for a night under the shimmering stars.
Undoubtedly, Pang Oung is truly a nature lover’s paradise, hidden in the lap of Thailand. Don’t just take our word for it, come see for yourself!
Ban Rak Thai
Get ready for an exciting journey from Mae Hong Son to Pai, with a can’t-miss stopover at the Chinese-Thai village of Ban Rak Thai. You’re going to love every bit of this journey.
Start your day with a hearty breakfast because you’ll need all the energy you can muster for this fun-filled day. You’ll travel on the twisty and curvy roads through hills and mountains before reaching Ban Rak Thai.
Alongside the climb to Doi Inthanon, this leg of the journey is very steep, and this is where you find out why I said to bring a bigger motorbike with a larger fuel tank. There are no gas stations until you reach the town, and you don’t want to be stranded in the middle of the forest.
Now for Ban Rak Thai. This remarkably unique village, built by the soldiers of the 93rd Division of the Kuomintang Army, sits cozily near the Myanmar border.
It’s like stepping into a different world as you wander through the streets, absorbing the conservative Yunnan culture and enjoying authentic Chinese food. Amble around the lake, it’s truly a sight to behold.
Here’s what you need to check out in Ban Rak Thai:
- The mesmerizing lake surrounded by mountains
- Beautiful tea plantations that stretch as far as the eye can see
- Shops selling distinctive souvenirs
- Taste the local tea which is a symbol of authentic Yunnan culture
Expert tip: While Ban Rak Thai is beautiful, note that it can get a bit crowded due to its popularity with local tourists. If you’re not a fan of crowds, it might be wise to visit during off-peak hours.
Also, do try and sample some local Chinese cuisine at the restaurants in the village – It’s a culinary treat not to be missed!
Think of Ban Rak Thai as a hidden gem amidst the mountains, where you can slow down, immerse yourself in a different culture, and enjoy the simple joys of life.
A little kitsch, a bit of charm, and a whole lot of scenic beauty – that’s Ban Rak Thai for you.
Nam Lod Cave
As we make our way towards Pai, get ready for an adventure, my friend, because the Nam Lod Cave, also known as “The Spirit Caves”, is no ordinary stroll through a park. Nestled in Northern Thailand, it’s a labyrinth of limestone caverns that make up some of the largest in the country.
So put on your best explorer’s hat because this isn’t a solo expedition; hiring a guide for a little over 4 bucks is a must for navigating the cavernous dark.
In this giant maze of stalactites and stalagmites, meandering through on your own might seem adventurous, but trust me, it’s safer with a guide.
If you’re in luck, you can even experience the caves in the tranquil glow of candlelight, drifting through caverns on a bamboo raft on the Mae Lang River, which runs through the space.
Stopping at the Nam Lod Cave is a no-brainer on the Mae Hong Son Loop trip. Apart from its awe-inspiring natural formations, people rave about it being one of the top 10 caves globally.
Things to do in Pai
Now that we reached Pai, we recommend spreading a few days here, this mountain town is a gem in the North of Thailand. Its quiet, small-town hippy atmosphere is just what the doctor ordered after so many miles and adventures on the bike.
Here are some of the best things to do in Pai.
Sai Ngam Hot Spring
Sai Ngam Hot Spring, a secluded gem tucked away in the panoramic vistas of Pai, is an unmissable stop on your Mae Hong Son Loop itinerary for 2023.
Undeniably fetching, the springs offer the perfect blend of relaxation and adventure. The natural hot water will soothe and relax your mussels after a long journey.
Immerse yourself in the unique offerings of Sai Ngam Hot Spring:
- A Natural Retreat: Nested amid lush greenery, the spring provides a natural escape and solace from the bustling city life.
- Perfect Temperature: The water in the hot spring maintains an ideal hot tub temperature, perfect for sinking into after a long motorbike ride.
- Stunning Scenery: To amplify the experience, the spring is surrounded by picturesque landscapes, making it a paradise for nature lovers.
- Admission Fee: This experience is very affordable. You have to part with a minimal admission fee, ensuring that the springs are well maintained.
- Local Food Stalls: Indulge in some authentic local cuisine from nearby food stalls to make your hot spring adventure a gastronomic delight as well.
- Wildlife: If you’re lucky, you might even spot some local wildlife, which adds to the overall charm of the Sai Ngam Hot Spring.
No mystery why Sai Ngam Hot Spring consistently ranks as a favorite amongst bikers cruising along the Mae Hong Son Loop!
Kho Ku So Bamboo Bridge
Want to experience another amazing bamboo bridge over beautiful rice terraces? Let’s talk about the extraordinary Kho Khu So Bamboo Bridge, located in the appealingly serene town of Pai in Thailand.
There’s just something about this place that tugs at our wanderlust heartstrings. We’re talking about an aesthetically pleasing, 1 mile-long bamboo path that connects local lives, spiritual beliefs, and, yes, enthusiastic travelers like you too!
How do you get there? Google Maps is enough to guide you to this hidden gem in Pai. But just in case you need a hint, remember it’s close to the town center, winking at you from behind the rice fields.
Remember to wear comfortable shoes for the walk, carry a hat for the sun, and most importantly, don’t forget your camera because you are going to want to capture every moment!
Pai Canyon, a little nugget nestled in northern Thailand, is one of the must-see sites when visiting Pai.
This canyon isn’t quite the expansive, sprawling landscape you’d likely envision when you hear the word “canyon”, this is not the Grand Canyon, but it punches well above its weight class with its stunning vistas and thrilling hiking opportunities.
Here’s a snapshot of what makes Pai Canyon simply unforgettable:
- A superb panoramic view that is truly a photographer’s dream.
- A unique trekking experience along narrow ridges with deep gorges on both sides.
- A tranquil environment to soak up, especially as the sun dips below the horizon, washing the canyon in an ethereal, golden light.
- Stay safe: Tread carefully, especially along the narrow trails. They’re thrilling but can be dangerous too.
- Lastly, come with time on your side– Pai Canyon is a place you’ll not want to rush, especially when you’re walking down less-trodden paths and quietly soaking up the sunset.
Remember, Pai Canyon may not be mentioned in the same breath as the Grand Canyon, but its charm lies in its uniqueness, intimacy, and the unspoken thrill that it provides.
Yun Lai Viewpoint
Ladies and gentlemen, rev your motorbikes because we’re about to take you on an incredible journey to one of Pai’s most impressive treasures – the Yun Lai Viewpoint.
Nestled snugly in the mountains of Norther Thailand, this stunning scenic spot is an absolute must-visit during your motorbiking adventure. Haven’t heard of it? Well, read on, my friend, because we’re about to change your mind and travel itinerary!
Here’s why we love to visit Yun Lai Viewpoint:
- First off, it offers a spectacular panorama of Pai. Trust us when we say the sweeping vistas of lush valleys, tree-clad mountains, and the quaint Pai village is worth every second of your detour.
- Secondly, it is the perfect spot for those memorable sunrise and sunset moments, bringing out the shades of orangish-red hues across the skyline.
- Lastly, for all the tea and coffee aficionados, there is a small coffee shop, and there’s also a tranquil Chinese village nearby, ‘Santichon,’ where you’re invited to sip on some fine local brews while soaking up the serene atmosphere.
This is another place where you will appreciate the extra horsepower of your motorbike, the journey up is paved and well-maintained but very steep.
So folks, hold tight and gear up for some stunning scenery at Yun Lai Viewpoint during your visit to Pai. It’s a visit you won’t regret, we promise!
Big Buddha Pai
First, let’s start by saying the Big White Buddha, also known as Big Buddha Pai, is one of the most iconic landmarks in Pai. It’s on everyone’s list of must-sees, and for a good reason!
- The Magnificent Structure: You can’t miss the Big White Buddha statue perched on a hill overlooking the town. It’s a sight to behold! Standing tall, the statue is beautifully crafted and imposing in its stature. Undoubtedly, its presence in the Pai skyline is impressive. Whether you’re a few meters away or observing it from afar, you can not help but appreciate its grandeur.
- The Journey: The climb to the Big White Buddha is an experience in and of itself. Now, trust me, it’s a bit of an uphill task, literally. But the exercise is so worth it. And you know us when we say it’s not just about the destination but the journey itself.
- The Scenic View: Once you reach the top, prepare to be greeted by an unbeatable, breathtaking view of the entire town! It’s the kind of view that makes you go “awe” while it sinks in. The panorama is truly magical, and did we mention the sunset? The angles the sun catches at just the right moment create a mesmerizing scene that makes the climb totally worth it.
- The Serenity: While the sight of the Big White Buddha is indeed captivating, there’s more to this place than just its visual appeal. Visitors often describe their time here as an extremely peaceful one. Our journey and our struggles up the hill fade into insignificance compared to the peace we encounter there. It is one of those places where you can sit, reflect, or just enjoy the calm that the place naturally possesses.
- Accessibility: If you’re okay with not challenging yourself with the climb, there’s also the option of motorized transport to get to the hill’s summit. By walk or drive, the Big White Buddha is easily accessible to everyone.
- Timing: Now, here’s a tip for you! The best time to visit the Big Buddha is closer to sunset. We are talking about the kind of sunsets that make perfect Instagram posts. The sky at dusk sets the perfect backdrop for the White Buddha, giving you incredible photos and memories to cherish.
So, if you find yourself in Pai, the Big White Buddha is an attraction you simply cannot afford to miss. It’s more than just a statue, it’s an experience that’s wonderfully tranquil and charming in equal measure.
Pai Night Market
Every wandering soul must have one thing on their Pai bucket list – a visit to the Night Market after sunset.
Now picture this: You and I, exploring the vibrant alleyways of this market, indulged in this melting pot of Thai culture and culinary delights.
Here are some highlights of the market you will absolutely love:
- A foodie’s paradise: Starting with Pad Thai stalls to BBQ grilled pork on skewers, mango sticky rice, and fried ice cream, the market is a heaven for taste buds! There’s an ocean of stalls where you can scoot over and savor a variety of affordable local Thai dishes.
- Souvenir shopping: Among the bustling food stalls, you’ll also stumble across shops filled with bohemian handicrafts, artsy clothing pieces, handmade jewelry, and souvenirs. A sure place to find a unique memoir of your Thai adventure.
- Friendly locals: Here, you can rub shoulders with local vendors and fellow travelers. They’ll share their stories, their love for Pai and recommend their favorite food stall or craft shop!
Now let’s dive into essential tips to make the most out of the Pai Night Market:
- Visit on a Sunday: Pai Night Market is at its finest on Sundays, bustling with vibrant energy, more food vendors, and souvenir stalls. Not that the weekday market isn’t enchanting, but Sundays are magical.
- An empty stomach: Do come hungry and ready to delve into Pai’s delightful local cuisines, all incredibly affordable. And keep some cash ready for that irresistible souvenir you’ll surely find!
- Take your time: Don’t rush around the market; take the time to amble and browse. The vendors are proud of their crafts and would love for you to appreciate their art.
- Cultivate goodwill: Apply the Thai custom of smiling, and a friendly ‘Sawasdee’ (Hello in Thai) could win you a warm response and maybe even a local insider tip for the best Pad Thai in town!
With these tips, you’re all set to navigate the vibrant trails of the Pai Night Market. Get ready to be fascinated by the eclectic mix of food, handy crafts, and, most importantly, the captivating spirit of Thai culture!
Related Article: 17 Awesome Things to Do in Pai.
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Part 5: Pai to Chiang Mai
The road from Pai to Chiang Mai is one of the most traveled roads in Northern Thailand and also one of the most beautiful. Many travelers who don’t want to embark on the entire Mae Hong Son Loop settle for just this leg of the journey.
It takes just 3 hours to drive directly to Chiang Mai, but there are many things to see along the way, so be ready for a full day of adventures.
Here are some highlights on the way back to Chiang Mai.
Tha Pai Memorial Bridge
Tha Pai Memorial Bridge, colloquially known as the WWII Memorial Bridge, is a fascinating pit stop on your motorbike adventure back to Chiang Mai.
No, don’t let the name fool you! Even though it’s called the WWII Memorial Bridge, its construction doesn’t date back to that era. Instead, it is a monument erected in remembrance of a much older bridge.
Now, it might not send your historical adrenaline shooting high, but trust me, it certainly is a worthy momentary pause along your thrilling ride. Here’s why:
- Strategic Location: This bridge is the gateway you will ride through if you’re journeying on the road with its mind-boggling 762 turns to Chiang Mai. Its convenient placement naturally makes it an easy pit stop.
- Historical Significance: Even though it doesn’t combat any WWII-era mysteries, it does stand as a testament to the resilience of the local infrastructure over time. If nothing, one can appreciate the gestures of those who decided to pay tribute to a past architectural wonder.
- Captivating Views: There’s something about bridges that have us pulling out our phones for that impromptu photo shot, isn’t there? The surrounding greenery and clear blue sky offer a stunning backdrop adding an exotic charm to the bridge, making it a great spot to take a few photographs for your travelogue as well.
A majestic reminder of the past, the Memorial Bridge offers a slice of history for curious travelers, adds a dash of exoticism to your journey, and simply but surely, is a charming excuse to stretch those legs and enjoy the view.
Mok Fa Waterfall
If you’ve got “waterfall chasing” on your mind during your trip to Thailand, then you’ll absolutely adore Mok Fa Waterfall! This gem is among the best stops on the stunning Mae Hong Son Loop.
Honestly, folks, you won’t want to miss out on the Mok Fa Waterfall because it’s just that spectacular. Take it from me, an adventurer who’s seen waterfalls aplenty, this is a stop that’ll make your photos wow-worthy and your journey truly memorable.
The Mok Fa Waterfall boasts several sensational features:
- It’s a major part of the journey from Pai to Chiang Mai, situated right in the lush terrain of the Huai Nam Dang National Park.
- The jaw-dropping height of this waterfall descent is a sight to behold.
- The azure cascade pools at the foot, ideal for a quick, refreshing swim.
- The seclusion of the waterfall lends an air of untouched beauty to the site.
- The surrounding greenery and tranquillity make this waterfall the perfect picnic spot.
Now, for some quick tips: make sure you’re bringing swimwear if you plan on taking a dip in the cool cascade pool. Also, pack a hearty lunch to enjoy a picnic amidst the calming scenery.
I’d recommend visiting earlier in the day, as it can get quite busy during peak visiting hours. And always remember to keep the area clean and carry any rubbish out with you.
Wat Nong Kai Temple
While teeming with numerous sights and attractions, no Mae Hong Son Loop itinerary wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the enchanting Wat Nong Kai Temple.
Serving as an emblem of sacred traditions and rich history, Wat Nong Kai is a gem that draws both local and international travelers with its mystique and magnificence.
- Wat Nong Kai Temple’s grandeur is encapsulated in its spectacular architecture, reflecting the deep religious and historical significance rooted in its foundations.
- The temple grounds are meticulously maintained, boasting lush landscapes that serve as the perfect backdrop for the tranquil atmosphere.
- The main pagoda is an eye-catching attraction not to be missed. Its stunning details and intricate design are an awe-inspiring testament to the expert craftsmanship of local artisans.
- The temple houses exquisite Buddha statues, each meticulously crafted and telling a story of the sacred teachings and life of the Buddha.
- Benefit from the serene ambiance, perfect for moments of quiet reflection and meditation. The tranquil surroundings and soothing sounds of nature lend themselves to an utterly peaceful experience.
As you explore the temple, observe, immerse, and take in the tranquil aura that permeates every corner of Wat Nong Kai. This heavenly abode provides a deep sense of serenity that’s truly unmatched.
Wat Pa Dara Temple
Still have the energy to spend on your way to Chiang Mai? Kick it up a notch and slide Wat Pa Dara Phirom, a century-old temple complex, into your itinerary.
Nestled in the heart of a spectacular pine forest, the grandeur of this royal-grade monastery and its immersive tranquility will make it your highlight reel. It’s one of the most intricately carved structures in the north of Thailand, rivaled only by the magnificent temples of Chiang Rai.
Speaking of what makes this temple a must-visit spot? Well, let us ‘hand you the bread crumbs’!
- The Temple Complex: An architectural marvel, the Wat Pa Dara Phirom temple boasts intricate wood carvings and traditional Lanna-style structures draped in gold and emerald hues that’ll make your heart sigh.
- The Emerald Buddha Statue: Inside the temple, you’ll find the highly revered Emerald Buddha that’s been the focal point for Buddhist pilgrims over the years.
- The Museum: History-buffs, brace yourselves! The temple’s museum showcases a fascinating range of artifacts dating back to the Lanna Kingdom. It’s your chance to step back in time!
- The Pine Forest: The surrounding pine forest doesn’t simply offer a refreshing change from the usual tropical Thai landscape — it’s also perfect for those Instagram-worthy shots.
- The Tranquility: Unlike the ubiquitous buzz in urban cities, Wat Pa Dara Phirom has an enviable calmness, ideal for introspection or just a much-needed break amidst nature.
Prepare yourself to be bewitched by the regality and tranquility of Wat Pa Dara Phirom, a hidden gem on the Mae Hong Son Loop.
Things to do in Chiang Mai
And now we are back where we started, in beautiful Chiang Mai. Congratulations! The loop is complete. But the adventure is not over yet, and there are many things to do and see in Chiang Mai.
Here are some of the highlights of the biggest city in Northern Thailand.
Chiang Mai Old City
Chiang Mai Old City, a vibrant and bustling part of northern Thailand, is a place where history meets modernity in the most exciting ways. From ancient temples to surprising hidden gems, the Old Town has a little for everyone.
This perfect square surrounded by a moat and tall fortifications is back from the time when the entire city was nested and protected inside.
During your exploration of Chiang Mai Old Town, don’t miss a visit to the Tha Phae Gate, a historic and culturally significant landmark that was once part of the ancient city’s defensive wall and is now a bustling hotspot for tourists with its assortment of local markets, restaurants, and vibrant festivals.
In the vibrant Old City of Chiang Mai, food enthusiasts can revel in the plethora of delectable local cuisine and an array of endless street food offerings, showcasing the city’s rich culinary tradition embedded in every tempting dish.
And finally, don’t forget a visit to the beautiful temples imbued with centuries-old significance that dot the landscape, showcasing intricate architectural designs, serene surroundings, and rich cultural heritage.
These temples, such as the picturesque Wat Phra Singh Woramahawihan, brilliantly illuminated at dawn, provide a tranquil and immersive experience that encapsulates the spiritual essence of Chiang Mai.
With all these experiences, you’re sure to make some incredible memories in Chiang Mai Old Town!
Doi Suthep Temple
Doi Suthep Temple, perched on the mountain of the same name, is like a glittering jewel against Chiang Mai’s backdrop of high-rises and bustling city life.
It’s one of the most picturesque temples you may ever set your eyes on, and it exudes a sense of tranquility that stands out in stark contrast to the urban hustle and bustle.
Here is what makes this Temple special:
- The remarkable location atop Doi Suthep mountain
- Stunning views of Chiang Mai’s valley
- Lush, tranquil surroundings
- Amazing architectural and artistic details
- Presence of interesting shops and a coffee shop at the top
Whether you’re a lover of art and architecture, an adventure enthusiast, or a spiritual seeker looking for peace, Doi Suthep Temple has something for everyone. Just don’t leave Chiang Mai without checking it out!
Chiang Mai Night Market
Chiang Mai, popularly known as Thailand’s cultural capital, offers a treasure trove of experiences for travelers and locals alike.
High on this list is the Chiang Mai Night Market, a bustling arena of activity that should not be missed on your visit to Chiang Mai. Whether you’re looking for a souvenir to bring back home or authentic Thai food, the night market has something for everyone.
Here are some things to do in the Market:
- Boundless shopping: From handicrafts to clothes, accessories to souvenirs, the market offers a wide array of items at affordable prices.
- Food stalls galore: Treat your taste buds with diverse food options. Look out for skewered meats, noodle soup, and the fan-favorite mango sticky rice.
- Live music: As you wander through the maze of stalls, let the local live music serenade you, enhancing your shopping experience.
Chiang Mai Night Market is not just a shopping avenue but a cultural experience. The vibrancy, energy, and authenticity of this place make it a brilliant addition to your Mae Hong Son Loop itinerary.
And remember, this is a Night Market, so make your way here after 7 PM.
Chiang Mai Zoo
Calling all adventure seekers and animal enthusiasts alike! If you’re journeying through the breathtaking city of Chiang Mai, completing your adventure without a visit to the famed Chiang Mai Zoo would be like leaving your ice cream untouched on a hot summer’s day – inexplicably missing out on the cherry on top!
Now, we’ve traveled the length and breadth of North Thailand, and trust us when we tell you this is a zoo experience unlike any other.
Now, I’m sure you’re thinking, why should you visit a zoo while exploring a country thriving with natural wonders and awe-inspiring landscapes, right?
Well, here’s the deal – The Chiang Mai Zoo isn’t your ordinary “caged animals” kind of place. Get up close and personal with the vibrancy that is Thai wildlife and engage with exotic animals you might only dream about.
Here are some top features and attractions you’ve got to check out:
- The “Panda Palace”: Home to the only Giant Pandas in Thailand! Intriguing, isn’t it? Don’t forget to snap a picture!
- The Aquarium: Astonishingly one of the world’s longest underwater tunnels. Explore an aquatic utopia filled with thousands of different marine species.
- The Bird Park: A fascinating aviary with an array of distinct species of birds, some native exclusively to this region. An ornithologist’s paradise indeed!
Expert Tip for Visitors: Make sure to plan your visit early in the day. Not only will you escape the afternoon heat, but you’ll also witness the animals at their most active.
Wat Umong Suan Phutthatham Temple
When you’re in Chiang Mai, a visit to the Wat Umong Suan Phutthatham Temple is a must. Nestled in a scenic location, this 700-year-old temple is steeped in history and spiritual significance.
From architectural marvel to natural beauty, this temple has so much to offer:
- Its unique tunnel system: As “Umong” translates to “tunnel” and this temple is known for its intricate tunnel system. You’ll find yourself captivated by the labyrinth of tunnels featuring ancient fading wall paintings and Buddha images.
- Meditation retreat: This temple isn’t just a sight for the eyes but also a haven for the mind. With a tranquil location surrounded by a forest and lake, it’s a perfect retreat for meditation. You might even see monks and locals meditating in the tranquil environment.
- Spiritual significance: The temple’s history has it that it was built by King Mangrai in the late 13th century for a monk who liked to wander in the forest, hence the unique location. It’s said to serve as a symbol of the nature of the mind – unsteady and multiplicative like the tunnels.
- Teaching of the Buddha: Another fascinating feature of this vintage temple is its Dhamma teachings displayed on signs around the temple.
I know we’ve visited a lot of temples so far, but this is quite a unique one, so add it to your list.
BoSang Fishing Park
Want to do something unique on your Chiang Mai adventure? Enter the BoSang Fishing Park, a charming alternative activity that brings you closer to the peaceful Thai countryside in a unique way.
Here are some highlights:
- Offers mostly Mekong Catfish but a diverse range of fish sizes.
- Well-maintained equipment is available for rent.
- Friendly and helpful staff who can guide beginners.
- Delicious local cuisine is available at the on-site restaurant.
- Relaxing and serene environment, far from the regular tourist trail.
- You only need to fish here for an hour or two to catch multiple fish.
Pricing-wise, the BoSang Fishing Park is really affordable, with the 500 THB price covering the fishing rod rental, bait, and entry. It’s excellent value for a unique experience, especially if you are spending a few hours.
Expert Tips: If you plan to visit, it’s recommended to bring thick-sliced white toast bread, the preferred food for the fish, sunscreen, hats, and some insect repellant. And don’t rush, appreciate the sheer tranquility of the place.
You will also enjoy my Detailed list of Things to Do in Chiang Mai.
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What type of transport is recommended for the Mae Hong Son Loop?
The recommended way to travel the Mae Hong Son Loop is to drive yourself, ideally on a motorbike, for increased freedom and flexibility.
- The motorbikes I recommended are 150cc (Honda PCX, ADV, and Yamaha N-Max) or 300cc (Honda Forza, ADV 350, or Yamaha X-Max 300).
- Bear in mind this route is tough, requiring good riding skills to navigate.
- Non-drivers can opt for public transport or an organized tour, but these options limit exploration and may not offer the best comfort.
- You can consider renting a car instead of a motorbike, but the experience is not the same.
- However, nothing beats the thrill of traversing the loop’s 1,864 curves on a two-wheeler if you’re up for the challenge.
What are the main attractions of the Mae Hong Son Loop?
The Mae Hong Son Loop is absolutely a must-do scenic ride in northern Thailand, looping from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son and back again.
The loop, folks, isn’t your typical tourist mecca, like, say, Bangkok or Phuket, but it packs a punch of experiences that are hard to forget.
Yes, my friends, we’re talking about a road trip on a stunning 450 miles stretch that could take you up to 10 days to cover.
Let’s dive in and look at some of the spectacular main attractions that make this loop absolutely worth it:
- Stunning landscapes: Imagine being surrounded by an unending canvas of lush jungles, beautiful rice fields, and lofty mountains almost throughout your journey. You folks are in for quite a treat!
- Adventure: The ride isn’t your usual straight-as-an-arrow highway. We’re talking about winding roads with 1,864 thrilling twists and turns. If you’re a motorbike enthusiast like me, you’re in for a pure, adrenaline-pumping thrill!
- Town of Pai: Now this, my friends, is a place you absolutely must visit. Pai is brimming with character, from its vibrant night markets to its beautiful hot springs.
- Mae Hong Son: The loop’s namesake town, Mae Hong Son is worth a visit for its charm, serene temples like Wat Chong Kham and Wat Chong Klang, and the peaceful Jong Kham Lake.
- Tham Lot Cave: The mystical Tham Lot Cave is an underground wonder filled with stalactites and stalagmites. It’s an experience you really need to have for yourself!
- Cultural Insights: As you travel through the loop, you get a glimpse into unique local cultures, hill tribes, and authentic Thai villages like Mae Lana. This is more than just sightseeing, it’s a learning experience.
- Su Tong Pae Bridge: Made entirely of bamboo, this bridge spans across lush paddy fields leading to a monastery. It’s an example of serene beauty that’s Insta-worthy!
- Doi Inthanon: Often referred to as ‘The Roof of Thailand,’ Doi Inthanon is the country’s highest peak. If you love nature and hiking, this is your place!
The Mae Hong Son Loop gives you the best of road trips, cultures, scenic views, and of course, culinary delights. And hey, if you’re not big on riding, you can do the tour in a rental car or opt for a guided tour service.
But trust me on this, a motorbike gives you the most freedom to explore at your own pace and on your own terms.
What accommodation options are available for the Mae Hong Son Loop?
This fantastic route boasts a versatile range of accommodations to suit every style and budget. Just imagine the flexibility, you could be bunking up in a budget-friendly guesthouse one night and indulging in a luxurious resort the next, you can find all kinds of accommodations on the Mae Hong Son Loop.
Let the beauty of Mae Hong Son Loop take your breath away, one day, one town, one comfy bed at a time. Just keep in mind that no matter your choice, booking in advance through a reliable platform like Booking.com is recommended for the best rates and availability.
What are the best viewpoints on the Mae Hong Son Loop?
The Mae Hong Son Loop in northern Thailand is indeed a visual feast. If you’ve got a thirst for adventure and love jaw-dropping views, this route is surely up your alley.
Let’s take a look at the best viewpoints that can help you fill your social media feed with awe-inspiring shots:
- Su Tong Pae Bridge: This majestic sight is a dream for photographers and is first on our list. This bamboo footbridge, nestled amidst lush green paddy fields, offers an authentic rural landscape view. It’s the contrast of the simple bamboo bridge against the rich green backdrop that makes it captivating.
- Pai Canyon: Known for its stunning sunsets, this is your place if you love hues of orange and red mingling with the sky. From the top, you get to admire the unique geological formations and panoramic views of the surrounding valley.
- Tham Lot Cave: Here’s an offbeat viewpoint for adrenaline junkies! This ancient cave offers an eerie yet mesmerizing view of stalactites and stalagmites. You can navigate the cave by bamboo raft, taking in the dramatic scenes lit up by lanterns.
- Highway 108 and 1095: No, it’s not a specific spot, but driving on these winding highways provides scenic perspectives at each turn. This is where you experience the famous 1,864 curves, surrounded by diverse landscapes of mountains and rice fields. Think of it as an ever-changing viewpoint that’s exhilarating!
- Doi Inthanon: Being the highest point in Thailand, the viewpoints here are bound to leave you astonished. The mist-laden peaks, the King and Queen Pagodas, and the cascading waterfalls create views that are not just pretty, they’re heart-stopping!
- Khun Yuam: Nestled between Mae Hong Son and Mae Sariang, Khun Yuam is a viewpoint that’s all about serenity. It offers arresting views of the countryside, with gentle hills, pretty wildflowers, and ancient temples.
- Mae Sariang: Last but not least, it’s a delightful viewpoint known for its tranquil river scenes. You can enjoy the panoramic view of this picturesque town with a backdrop of towering mountains while pausing here.
Each viewpoint on the Mae Hong Son Loop offers a unique experience and a different aspect of northern Thailand’s beauty.
Remember, wherever you choose to stop, it’s going to be a treat for the eyes!
What is the best time of year to do the Mae Hong Son Loop?
The best time of the year to do the Mae Hong Son Loop is from mid-November to early December, and here is why:
- Cold, dry weather rules, perfect for road conditions.
- Mexican Sunflowers and other wildflowers are blooming, paving your drive with vibrant colors.
- The crowd’s still sparse, offering a more serene experience.
Ensure you have everything you need on this Epic Trip by also reading My Complete Thailand Packing List.
How long does it take to complete the Mae Hong Son Loop?
Completing the Mae Hong Son Loop, a thrilling 450 miles journey through the enchanting landscapes and towns of Northern Thailand, could take anywhere between 3 days to 10 days, but people have been known to take multiple weeks to finish the loop.
The time frame primarily depends on your pace and desires:
- If you’re a real speed demon, it’s technically possible to cover the loop in a quick 3-day sprint, halting for the night at Mae Sariang, Mae Hong Son City, and Pai. But personally, I wouldn’t recommend this as it restricts your opportunities to truly immerse yourself in the region’s cultural milieu and breathtaking scenery.
- For the more leisurely traveler, a relaxed 7-day journey allows ample time to soak in hot springs, visit indigenous hill-tribe villages, and explore national parks at your own pace.
- If exploration and deep immersion are your prime objectives, taking around 10 days to do the loop would be sensible. For instance, a relaxed 10-day itinerary might include watching a sunrise at Kew Mae Pan, spending a day in Mae Sariang, and hiking the Mae Sakut Nature Trail, among plenty of other local attractions.
- Finally, if time isn’t a constraint and you’re up for a more unhurried venture, spending a couple of weeks meandering around the loop gives you the chance to really dive deep into each destination, allowing the trip to unfold at a truly indigenous pace.
Remember, the loop isn’t merely about completing a route but about the myriad experiences on offer along the way.
So, be sure to allocate ample time for the unexpected delights that are bound to come your way while circling this unique Northern Thai journey!
What safety precautions do I need to take when doing the Mae Hong Son Loop?
Here are the safety precautions you need to take when doing the Mae Hong Son Loop:
- Firstly, be road-smart. The route, though well-paved most of the time, is mountainous with over 1,860 curves! If it’s a rainy day, buckle up for more slippery challenges. Careful riding is the key, my friend.
- Are you a motorbike newbie? If so, start off with a small test. Ride up and down the Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai. It’s similar terrain but not quite as long and often less steep. It’s a real litmus test for whether you’re ready to tackle the Loop.
- Remember, discomfort crowns the journey with an uninvited guest. It comes due to the bends and the climb in altitude, causing travel sickness. Hey, why don’t you consider taking precautions like motion sickness tablets before setting off, especially if you are prone to travel sickness?
- Ensure you’re packing right. The mountain temperatures can dip to single digits at night during the cool season. Conversely, the hot season can be inferno-esq. The rule of thumb: pack warmer clothing, sunscreen, and don’t forget that mosquito repellent.
- Bring the proper paperwork. Always carry your International Driver’s License/Permit and your passport, but never leave it as security for the motorbike. Make that a photocopy instead. Don’t fall for a passport-based scam.
- Even the best of riders get caught off-guard by potholes, loose gravel, or animals on the road. Dress smartly. I’m not saying suit up but avoid being in something as flimsy as a t-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops. You need protection, not a fashion statement.
- Safety gear check before the lap. Always put on a helmet, full-face if possible. It’s no time to worry about helmet hair and ensure that third-party insurance accompanies your rented bikes.
- Coming to your stay, always plan a step ahead. You wouldn’t want to end your day searching for accommodations instead of resting your traveling-fatigued body. Book your places in advance, more so during the peak season between October and March.
- Lastly, make sure to arm yourself with a detailed map of the Mae Hong Son Loop. Save the Google My Maps at the top of this article and download it in office mode. That way, you have navigation even with no cell reception.
Navigating the Mae Hong Son Loop can be an exhilarating experience. And like any adventure, safety should always be the priority.
Always wear your helmet, dress appropriately, and bring a small first aid kit for any incidents.
What are the best places to rent a motorbike for the Mae Hong Son Loop?
The perfect starting point to rent a motorbike is the vibrant city of Chiang Mai, offering reliable rental services. Here are some of the best places to kickstart your adventure:
- Mr. Mechanic. Known for its wide range of motorbikes, Mr. Mechanic comes highly recommended by almost all adventurers. Whether you are looking for a 150cc bike for around 500 THB per day or a larger 300cc bike costing 1000+ THB per day, you can find it here. Renting is simple – all you need is an ID or a driving license and a deposit of about 2000 THB. However, be aware that you must never leave your original passport with the rental service, hand them a photocopy and instead.
- Mango Scooter Rental. With a large variety of well-maintained bikes on hand and excellent prices, this local rental shot is highly recommended.
- Local Scooter Rentals. You can also find a plethora of local rental shops offering scooters around Chiang Mai. If you are on a tight budget, these places might offer you a better deal. But be sure to check the condition of the scooter and whether it comes with third-party insurance.
In the end, ensure your own insurance covers motorbike travel, always wear a helmet and understand the challenging nature of the Mae Hong Son Loop before taking the plunge.
What type of motorcycle should I use for the Mae Hong Son Loop?
For the Mae Hong Son Loop, a 150cc or 300cc scooter is often your best bet. This route, replete with 1,864 twists and turns, can be challenging, particularly for less seasoned riders.
A scooter of this size offers a balance between handleability and power, allowing you to navigate the complex landscape. Based on personal experience on the Loop, it’s also advantageous to rent your scooter in Chiang Mai, where numerous rental options abound.
My top recommendations for beginners:
- Honda PCX 160cc
- Honda ADV 160cc
- Yamaha N-Max 155CC
For experienced riders, here is my 300cc+ list:
- Honda Forza 350cc
- Honda ADV 350CC
- Yamaha X-Max 300cc
For enthusiasts that want a manual bike, adventure motorcycles are the name of the game:
- BMW 1250 GS
- BWM 850 GS
- Suzuki Versys 650
- Honda CBX 500
Avoid all 125cc motorbikes and city-oriented motorbikes like the Honda Click 160cc and the Yamaha Arox 155cc. They have small fuel tanks and uncomfortable seats for long journeys. You do not want to run out of gas in a forest in the middle of nowhere.
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Conclusion: The Mae Hong Son Loop by Motorbike
If you love Thailand and want to explore more of it, here are The Top Places to visit in the Land of Smiles.
There you have it, folks! We’ve zipped through the Mae Hong Son Loop by motorbike, and what a thrilling ride it’s been! I’m sure, together, we trod a journey that nailed your wanderlust to the “T” and left you yearning for more!
In conclusion, if you’re wondering whether the Mae Hong Son Loop by Motorbike should be your next big trip, take it from someone who has been there, done that – it’s a resounding yes!
Bookmark your calendar and brace for an unforgettable ride. Trust me, it is an adventure that will redefine your expectations from a journey and leave you with memories that’ll last a lifetime.
Thank you for reading, and if you have any suggestions for places I’ve missed, let me know in the comments below.